New York Times Still Pushing $70-an-hour Autoworker Myth

01/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Like a zombie that can't be killed, the $70-an-hour autoworker lie is alive and well, roaming the media landscape -- and still being peddled by The New York Times in Monday's edition.

As Media Matters and other critics reported last week, it's a conservative myth concocted by totaling all wages, plus health and benefit costs to current workers and 450,000 retirees and their families -- and then deceptively dividing that huge total payout by the number of current UAW workers, about 140,000 in Detroit.

Here's what the Times said today in an article about the autoworkers considering concessions:

Some critics have taken aim at the automakers' hourly labor costs, which average more than $70 for senior workers, including wages and the value of benefits like pensions and health care.

Those costs run closer to $46 an hour at nonunion plants like Toyota's factory in Georgetown, Ky., and are even less at newer plants farther South, where foreign automakers have pegged wages closer to local rates.

In fact, as I and others previously reported, The Big Three true labor costs are on the way to matching those offered by non-union Japanese plants in the U.S.

It bears repeating what Media Matters' Eric Boehlert said on the political uses of this myth:

As Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) pointed out during congressional hearings last week, "There is apparently a cultural condition that's more ready to accept aid to a white-collar industry than the blue-collar industry, and that has to be confronted."

That cultural condition seems to extend to, and be embraced by, today's white-collar press corps.

Make no mistake: The $70-an-hour claim represents a classic case of conservative misinformation. It's also a very dangerous one. The falsehood about autoworkers is being spread at a crucial time, when a make-or-break public debate is taking place, a debate that could affect millions of American workers.

What will it take for the mainstream media to accurately report on the actual labor costs in Detroit while Congress is considering whether to give the Big Three a bailout?